Life Chronicles

In 1962, Shostakovich married Irina Antonovna Supinskaya. The first composition dedicated to her was the Ninth Quartet, which Shostakovich began working on during the first days of their marriage.
From 26 to 31 March, Shostakovich participated in the Third All-Union Congress of Composers. On 31 March, party and government leaders headed by Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev attended the final meeting of the congress in the Kremlin Theatre. On 27 March, Shostakovich finished the piano score of a symphonic poem for bass soloist, bass choir, and orchestra “Babi Yar” based on the poetry of Yevgeni Yevtushenko. Later it became the first movement of the Thirteenth Symphony, which was subjected to severe party criticism.
In mid-summer 1962, Shostakovich finished the Thirteenth Symphony. Rehearsals took place in different halls on 10-20 December. The premiere was held on 18 and 20 December in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory as performed by the symphony orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic and conducted by Kirill Kondrashin, soloist Vitali Gromadsky.
From 9 to 14 June, the first festival of contemporary music entirely devoted to Shostakovich’s creative work was held in Gorky. 

Elected as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
Participation in the Edinburgh Festival dedicated to Shostakovich.
November 12th - Shostakovich’s debut as a conductor with Cello Concerto No.1 (op. 107) and the “Festive Overture” (ор.96).
December 18th - Premiere of Symphony No. 113 (ор.113).

June 1962

“An incredibly important has taken place in my life - I have married. My wife is called Irina Antonovna. She has only one small failing: she is 27 years old. Otherwise she is a very good person, clever, cheerful, unpretentious, appealing. She wears glasses, can’t pronounce the letters ‘L’ or ‘R’. <...> In this respect life has smiled on me.”

February 28, 1962

“I am no genius. When I am referred to as such I feel very embarrassed. In general terms like ‘genius’, ‘untalented’ and so on do not tell you much.
I know that certain exaggerations of my ‘achievements’ stem mainly from the publicity given me by the Generalissimus.
I also know that while I am still alive I shall be accorded my rightful place. That is my totally sincere conviction.
My music soothes my pangs of conscience a little, but on the other hand the language of music is not widely understood.”

April 10, 1962

“I am now moving to a new flat. Here is the new address: Moscow, Nezhdanova Street, No. 8/10, Flat 23. The telephone number is 2-29-95-29. <...> It is very sad to be moving. The flat I am leaving is full of memories.”

June 24, 1962, Moscow

“I am currently in hospital. They are trying for the second time to cure my arm. Staying in hospital doesn’t cheer me up. Particularly during my honey-moon. My wife is called Irina Antonovna. I have known her for over two years. She only has one negative quality: she is 27 years old. In all other respects she is marvellous. She is clever, cheerful, unpretentious and appealing. She visits me every day and this makes me happy. She is very attached to me. I think that our life together will go well. I’m using the free time to compose. At the moment I am writing another piece to words by Yevtushenko. It is called ‘Humour’. It is difficult to say now whether it is going to be the second part of the symphony
or another symphonic poem.”

July 1, 1962, Moscow

“While in hospital I began composing my Thirteenth Symphony. To be more exact, it will probably be a vocal-symphonic suite in five parts. It is to be performed by a bass soloist, a bass choir and , of course, a symphony orchestra. For this composition I have used words by the poet Yevgenii Yevtushenko. After closer acquaintance with this poet I realized that his is a considerable and, most important of all, a thinking talent. I have met him and I liked him very much. He is 29 (sic!). It is very pleasing to see young people like this appear on the scene.
The Symphony consists of five parts. <...> The first three parts are completed.”

July 2, 1962, Moscow

“Irina feels very shy when she meets my friends. She is very young and modest. She works as a literary editor in the publishing house ‘Sovietskii Kompozitor’. From 9 till 5 she is at work. She is short-sighted, can’t pronounce the letters ‘R’ and ‘L’. Her father was Polish, her mother Jewish. They are no longer alive. Her father fell victim to the personality cult and violations of revolutionary legality. She was brought up by her aunt on her mother’s side, who has invited us to visit her near Ryazan. I have forgotten what the place near Ryazan is called. Irina was born in Leningrad. So now you have a short summary. She spent time in an orphanage and in a special orphanage. So you can see, she’s a girl with a past.”

August 1962.

“I am sending you greetings from Edinburgh...I am still absorbed by the Thirteenth Symphony. I’m impatiently waiting for the moment when I shall be able to hold the score, to play it, to experience it...It fills my head non-stop. I am thinking about it all the time...”

Irina Shostakovich,
widow of the composer:

“Irina Antonovna, how did you meet Shostakovich?”
“We met long before we began to live together - five or six years earlier. Our acquaintance was the result of my work as a literary editor of the libretto
for the operetta ‘Moscow, Cheryomushki’.
The librettists had made some corrections which had to be discussed with the composer. That was how on one spring day armed with a heavy file I went round to see Shostakovich. He looked through everything very quickly and said everything was fine. This can be regarded as the start of our acquaintance. Then over several years we used to meet and got to know each other better. I remember the following episode: I had wanted to listen to Kara Karaev’s miniatures for the film ’Don Quixote’. As it happened, Shostakovich took me to this concert, sat next to me during it and then took me home. That was the first step that reflected either his good manners or his liking for me.”
“What impression did he make, when you met for the first time?”
“In his presence I always felt a sense of calm. If there were problems,
they would all melt away.”
“What was Shostakovich like in day-to-day life?”
“He was easy-going and not demanding in that respect. There were some things that had to be right - he insisted that his shirts should be clean, the chairs intact, that no light bulbs should be burnt out or taps broken. Otherwise he had no particular demands. He kept to a rather strict time-table: breakfast at 9, lunch at 2, dinner at 7, but, if there was a concert, then afterwards. He was a well-organized man, he made maximum use of his time, to an amazing degree. He did everything fast. If he embarked on something then he would see it through quickly.”
“Which premieres are most memorable for you?”
“I was very struck by the first premiere which I attended - the premiere of the Thirteenth Symphony. I was struck by it all, because I had thought that once a composer has finished a work what comes afterwards would be pure pleasure - rehearsals would start, premieres, interviews, success, congratulations and so on. It turned out to be very different. That premiere was a very difficult and stressful one. The famous meeting between Khrushchev and the intelligentsia after his visit to an exhibition in the Manezh had taken place on the eve of the premiere. Shostakovich had returned home from that meeting very late and very agitated. The next morning, when the dress rehearsal was supposed to have taken place, the singer who was meant to sing the solo part was suddenly summoned to the Bolshoi. The choir and the orchestra turned up but there was no soloist. Another soloist was sent for, whom the Philharmonia supplied as a stand-in. They waited two hours for him. Then he arrived and sang, but at the rehearsal there were people from the Central Committee department present and during the break they told Shostakovich that he was expected at the Central Committee. Although he was told there that the premiere would take place, Shostakovich got very worked up. Strangely enough, when the next performance of the Symphony took place in Minsk, a similar meeting in Byelorussia was convened on the eve of the concert and there was the same agitation. The whole situation was very tense.
Yevtushenko was also summoned to the Central Committee and they insisted that he should re-work the text, otherwise this symphony would not see the light of day. He duly re-worked it and that is how it was performed. Shostakovich, however, did not correct the text in the manuscript.
The lead-up to this premiere was as follows: in the first place, Shostakovich had proposed that Mravinsky should conduct, but he didn’t say Yes or No and set off on tour. This made it clear that he would not be conducting it. The soloist part was offered to Gmyrya, who with serious doubts took the score and went to seek advice from the Ukrainian Central Committee. There he was told that he could, of course, sing, but that this symphony would not be performed in the Ukraine. Then it was offered to Vedernikov, who also turned it down. All in all it was a very nerve-wracking story.”
“What kind of relations did Shostakovich have with the authorities?”
“He of course realized that the people issuing the instructions had nothing against him personally and it was not a question of their ill will towards him. These were rulings which they, because of their official position, had to implement, and it was not always pleasant for them. In his last years Shostakovich was a very famous composer and his music was being played all over the world. This made his position and his words very authoritative and this was something they had to take into consideration.”

Yevgenii Yevtushenko:

“Once I had a phone call from Dmitrii Shostakovich who asked me, a relatively young man in comparison to him, permission to put some of my verses to music. That says a great deal about Shostakovich. He was an incredibly and deliberately polite man, to a touching degree. I was struck to hear Shostakovich asking my permission to write music to my verse.
He was extremely considerate towards other people. For example, he used not just to congratulate me on my birthday with a letter, card or telephone call, but even my mother and wife as well. After hearing I had a baby boy, he used to congratulate him on his birthday too. This was no coincidence. This was how he was. This was not pseudo-democracy just for show, but came from the heart of a great man.
<...> Inspite of his modesty he was a proud man. Once he told me a funny story which happened when he was very young.
In the twenties Shostakovich was working with a very famous, well-known and really good poet. When he was introduced to this poet, the latter was irritated either with the producer or someone else...While being introduced to Shostakovich he simply, perhaps in order to show off as poets are wont to do, held out two fingers. Shostakovich, then a very young man, rose to the occasion and held out one finger. He told me: ’I gritted my teeth, but held out one finger, although I loved him and felt like crying.’
The poet looked at him hard and said: ’Well, young man, you’ll go a long way’. Then he held out his whole hand to him. He had met his match, as they say.
Yes, Shostakovich, was proud, but he did not nurture his pride as a means for raising himself up above other people.”